Self-Portrait: Frida Kahlo

By Cooley, Nicole | The Nation, December 25, 1995 | Go to article overview
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Self-Portrait: Frida Kahlo

Cooley, Nicole, The Nation

I hope for a happy exit and I hope never to come back.

--the last entry in the diary of Frida Kahlo, 1954

I. The women sprinkle holy water on the sidewalk as they pass the house where Diego painted the courtyard walls, volcanic stone from San Angel.

Inside Casa Azul the blue parrot chases hens and she begins the long ceremony of dressing: rings studding the fingers of both hands, earrings

of heavy gold filigree hung to her shoulders, bougainvillea to wind and unwind in her hair. Last, the skirt arranged to hide the orthopedic shoe.

The women know the stories of the hospitals and the x-rays that shot light through her bones, illuminating nothing. They speak of the children she refused

to let live in her body, how she chose instead the metal rod fused in her spine. They have never seen her paintings but they say the rosary in her name while she lies in the canopy

bed under her photographs of Marx, Engels, Chairman Mao. If you enter that house, the women know, she'll show you her collection of dolls and curios that line the walls,

the batero she bought the afternoon of the accident. If you enter that house, you'll see the fetus in a jar of formaldehyde she will present as her own child.

They know she does not dwell in the House of the Lord. Her house must belong to the penitent Mother, the stone virgin in Juarez who cries real tears, reported on the radio.


He is a man who can open water with his hands, the second accident of my life. For the first I wear the corset painted with vines and flowers. For Diego I make an effigy of papier-mache, Frida

in a fringed rebozo, a doll to be burned as an offering during Lent.

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Self-Portrait: Frida Kahlo


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